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An Analysis of Climate Change Denial

==== qn: why are they doing it? what is in their hearts?

Climate-change denial (CCD), the opposition to taking climate change seriously, could provide humanity with good quality critique of the CC arguments. Unfortunately, they have not assumed this role.

We want to be able to find out where the climate change models are weak and their assumptions are shaky. So I had hoped that the CCDrs would reveal some of these. Unfortunately, they don't. Instead - as far as I have been able to discover - they poke fun and sneer, they smear the CC arguments with unwarranted associations, they raise objections that are low in relevance, they focus on very specific points as though those points are the whole argument, they claim as facts things that are either opinions or even false, and they fail to take a broad view. Why do they do this?

This page is part if a 'new view' in theology, which takes the Bible seriously but not in a traditional fundamentalist nor liberal way. Some of the statements here will reflect this view, but most will be relevant to those who do not. This is a 'serious' look at CC denial; I also have a rather more lively, polemical version.

I have yet to find a CCDr (anti-climate change person) who provides good quality critique that helps me truly evaluate models and assumptions. The CCDrs sound plausible and even convincing, but if you analyse what they say, it does not stack up. This page shows the following examples:

See what you think.


Jesus told the parable of a rich man and a poor man [Luke 16:19-31]. The poor man died and went to Abraham's bosom. The rich man died and went to hell, where in torment he asked Abraham to send the poor man back to warn his brothers. Abraham told him, "They have Moses and the prophets, let them listen to them." "No, Father Abraham," the rich man told him, "but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent." Abraham replied, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." In its original setting, this parable seems to have referred to the religious leaders of the time, who would still refuse to believe even when Someone (Jesus himself) rose from the dead.

Would the climate change opposition be convinced if some absolutely massive piece of evidence for climate change came up? I doubt it. As the evidence mounts for climate change, for humanity's responsibility for it, and for the urgency of changing our lifestyles and aspirations, they do not become convinced. Instead, they work even harder to undermine each piece of evidence.

That, at least, is what I observe. It seems to me a spiritual issue, not a logical or scientific one. To the extent that this is so, then these people are working against God and his will. Some of them at least are doing so for the 'kicks' of pulling people down. It has often been the case down through the ages that people who take God and good seriously are made fun of and pulled down by those who refuse to take their God-given role.

So most CCDrs should not be accorded serious attention, however plausible their arguments seem. Do we not have a responsibility to work with the best knowledge that we have? The greenhouse effect, that an increase in 'climate change' gases traps more of the sun's heat, is from a basic law of physics; those who deny it would have to offer other laws of physics to overcome it; they don't.

An Invitation to Climate Change People

God's people can help the climate change people in one major way: we who are known as Christians have 2,000 years of experience of being sneered at, made fun of, having what we say smeared with generous helpings of half-truths and deceitful associations. We know how to respond: with love and patience and truth. Even to the point of death; they have killed many of us over the years. But God's truth and love and light wins out in the end, and we will be part of his victory parade, and be crowned with honour. And, in this life, even in the midst of suffering, the Holy Spirit of God fills us with inner joy and meaning. So, I invite climate change people to join with God's people, in fact to become God's people in a deeper way than they are at the moment. Let God take the fear, frustration and hopelessness that now besets you; he can well bear it because he is the Almighty One Who Is Gentle. Turn to him, let him have charge of your innermost being, and he will act.

The Examples

Example 1. Christopher Booker: Daily Telegraph, U.K., Saturday, September 12th 2009

'US Congressional inquiries on 'hockey stick' graph claim it is fundamentally flawed.'
The text Sounds plausible But ...
A number of readers wrote in to express surprise at the recent letter from the US scientist Dr Michael Mann claiming that his famous "hockey stick" graph, showing temperatures having suddenly soared at the end of the 20th century to unprecedented levels, had been endorsed by the US National Academy of Sciences. Neither of the two Congressional inquiries involving the NAS did anything of the kind. Sounds damning, as though Mann has made an error of fact or even a lie. But it's not: Congress is not the same body as the NAS. Both could be correct - but Booker makes it sound as though the correctness of one makes the other a lie.
Both found that the computer model used to create Dr Mann's "hockey stick", completely rewriting climate history, was fundamentally flawed. This "fundamental flaw" seems to undermine the whole argument for climate change. All models are flawed, by virtue of being models. Is this flaw 'fundamental' enough to mean that we need to nothing at all about climate change? So I wait to hear from Booker what the flaw was, so I, the reader, can make up my own mind. He doesn't tell us. He merely claims 'fundamentally flawed'. Why should I believe him?
This is one reason why, despite all the efforts made to defend Dr Mann's graph by his academic colleagues (describing themselves as the Hockey Team), I have described it as "one of the most comprehensively discredited artefacts in the history of science". So the curve is not just slightly wrong, but a comprehensive lie, it would seem. But wait! All we have hear is what Booker himself described it as.
Now the Hockey Team have done it again. As part of the general drive to hype up panic over global warming in the run-up to December's Copenhagen conference, several of them are among the authors of a paper, published in the September 4 issue of the US journal Science, which claims to rewrite the climate history of the Arctic. As in the original version, the new hockey stick-shaped graph produced by their computer model shows temperatures gently declining for 900 years, then suddenly shooting up in recent years to record levels. (simply preparing for the punchline below)
As usual, there are several odd features of their model, which is largely based on data from Professor Philip Jones's Climate Research Unit in Norwich - the data he refuses to publish because it is a state secret. Suggestion that Jones is hiding something? Insidious smear, rather than actual facts.
But perhaps the oddest aspect of all is the contrast between this new study and the comprehensive record of Arctic temperatures compiled by the Danish Meteorological Institute from 1959 to the present day. Anthony Watts's Watts Up With That blog (see the blog posting on September 4) created an animated graphic showing the DMI's temperature changes over the past 50 years. Far from confirming the hypothetical upward spurt claimed by the Hockey Team's computer, the most remarkable feature of the actual record is that it shows no significant change whatever. The punchline! The warmists seem just plain wrong. But if you look at the Danish Meteological Institute's page on this, you find it's not quite that simple. Their data is actually a 'reanalysis' using a computer model, in fact two different models, one for 1959-2006 and one since 2006. The actual data used by the model is a highly complex dataset from the ECMWF, which measures a host of things like 'high cloud cover', precipitation, soil parameters, and many different temperatures - and only goes up to 2002.

So, what we have here is not 'facts' discrediting a 'mddel', but two different models operating on different data. Why should we believe the model that Booker happens to prefer over the other one? He does not give a reason - because he does not dig deep enough.

The unshakeable faith in computer models shown by the scientists who programme them would be the envy of any religious sect in the world. Seems the final nail in coffin: the CC scientists are put across as merely a religious sect. But Booker himself shows "unshakeable faith in computer models". Worse: he does so without admitting he is using a model. At least the CC scientists admit they are using models, recognise they have flaws, and try to refine them. Booker doesn't. Would the word 'hypocrite' (pretending to be something we are not) be appropriate?

Most of Christopher Booker's writings seem like this: citing what appear to be facts, but are not relevant, making unwarranted comparisons, sneering, trying to smear by association, being cavalier with data and sources, and being hypocritical.

I know some of the people in the climate change camp, such as Sir John Houghton, and find him a good, cautious scientist, willing to admit where he is wrong, and a serious follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. I trust him rather than Booker.

Example 2. Nigel Lawson's Book

Nigel Lawson, once UK Chancellor under Margaret Thatcher, published An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming in 2008.

Example 3. Roger Helmer, MEP

Roger Helmer produced a paper entitled 'Cool Thinking on Climate Change Why the EU's climate alarmism is both mistaken and dangerous' in 2009. He writes, "I am hugely grateful to the Bruges Group for inviting me to author this paper, which brings together much of my work on climate and energy issues over the last two years." In the document he tries to show that climate change is (a) not real or, if real, (b) not man-made or, if man-made, (c) not a problem.

Helmer's 'Paper'

He calls it a "paper", so I was hoping for the kinds of good reasoning found in a good paper of academic or professional quality. I found two 'key insights':

OK, I thought, I don't necessarily agree with the assumption about what is 'normal' underlying the second, but I do look forward to finding out his arguments underlying the first. As mentioned above, I am looking for *good* climate-sceptic arguments that I can really check out.

But then I read: "I will argue that our misplaced focus on the chimera of climate change is ...". 'Chimera' is not the kind of word to put in a 'paper', but is the kind of word that goes into a polemical tract. Uh-oh!, I thought. Maybe a slip, and it'll still be a useful paper. But then a few lines later I found "hubristic objective" - hubristic is a laden, emotive word that one uses in verbal battle, not in good argument.

So, it is not a paper as I, well-versed in academic thought, understand it. However, it might still provide some useful critical material. Here is what I found, section by section.

The EU: Fully paid-up Climate Alarmists

This section is a polemic against the European Union, especially on the grounds that the EU tries to enact environmental laws. The section does not contribute any useful critique of climate change arguments, so I pass it by here, except to say that I too dislike the EU, its only virtue in my mind being that it enacts environmental laws!

Climate change is not science. It is our new 21st century religion.

In the first two paragraphs, Helmer issues parallels between 'warmism' (which is his term for concern about climate change) to religion of the worst kind, such as "As with Mediæval Catholicism, it is possible to clear your conscience by buying `Papal Indulgences'". His parallels are only issued and illustrated, not argued. "The level of threats and abuse hurled at dissenters by the Warmists suggests that they are replacing reason with invective," he claims.

My comment: Religion is natural to humankind. If we believe something, we are committed and are passionate. For example to our football team. For example, Helmer to his climate change skepticism (from a quotation he cites at the start of his paper, he sees himself in the role of a bulldog). Some committed people make rash, unwise claims and threats - both climate change people and climate change deniers - and it is these to which Helmer is alluding. But that some followers do this does not prove that the religion is wrong. Helmer himself is almost guilty of "replacing reason with invective", when he dismisses climate responsibility as 'chimera' and those who want to take action as 'hubristic', and his accusation "If you are ... a Friend of the Earth, then your two key (but unstated) objectives are survival and fund-raising." - which is completely untrue of me, a member of Friends of the Earth.

He cites Sir John Houghton in Global Warming, the Complete Briefing (, Cambridge University Press, 1994) as saying "Unless we announce disasters, no one will listen."

My comment: In 1994 that was true: very few opinion formers, media people, top politicians or business leaders would listen to good argument and take responsible action; they would only take notice of disasters. That is the sin of humanity: we refuse to relinquish our power and comfort to assume our God-given responsibility for the rest of creation. So it is not wrong to announce disaster; God's prophets did.

Climate Change Deniers

He makes the semantic point, "there are no climate change deniers. No sane person can deny that the climate changes". Then, in an attempt to undermine concern about climate change, he tries to argue against the following statements which, he implies, climate change supporters believe:

This list is a mixture of factual statements (F), predictions (P), accusations (A), and straw-man statements (S). While most climate change supporters would agree with F and P, most would not make the accusations A nor the S statements even though a few might have done so. The S statements are straw men. If this were a genuine paper I would have expected the S statements to be missing, recognising they are straw men, and the A statements either missing or at least dealt with as a minor aside. Elsewhere I examine his arguments for the F and P statements, and find most of them flawed and only one contains material that is useful critique.

The IPCC and "Consensus"

After some irrelevant swipes at the awarding of Nobel Peace Prizes, he ;makes the point that science proceeds by paradigm-shifts, and that it is the dissenters that bring about the paradigm-shifts. There is some truth in this, but he misunderstands the nature of paradigm shifts; see below: the current clutch of climate skeptics are not the kinds of people who will bring about paradigm shifts.

The main thrust of this section is to attack and undermmine the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). He tries to do it by smearing its character: "And here is the rub. The IPCC is notorious for the cavalier way in which it dismisses contrary opinions. It has already seen the light. It knows the truth, and has no time for dissent." One example he gives is that the IPCC "persisted in asserting that global warming would increase the incidence of malaria in more northerly latitudes, and refused to listen to Reiter's advice that malaria can exist in cool climates".

My Comment 1: What he says might hold some truth. If it does, then it is sad, because arrogance is usually counter-productive. But often a body seems to be arrogant to trouble-makers who actually offer little value, rather than to true critics. I would want to know more about the dissent. For example, that malaria can exist in cool climates need not be inconsistent with the belief that malaria would increase in northerly latitudes with global warming, so why did Reiter insist that his name was removed from their report?

This section offers a little value by way of warning IPCC against being too arrogant, but I would want to hear IPCC's side first.

Earth's Climate History


The point is different. Where we end up will most likely be greatly affected by the direction in which we aim, and even a slight change of direction of aim can make a huge different to where we end up. This is especially so with a physical system that we cannot control. The climate is such a physical system that we cannot control.

The science

"It woz the Sun wot dun it"

Al Gore's movie: Science fiction?

The sceptics strike back

The Stern Report: Deeply flawed, profoundly misleading

Flawed Policies for Climate Mitigation

Energy security: the major challenge

Nuclear energy: the mainstream, base-load carbon-free energy source

Epilogue: Where do we go from here?

"The back-bone of Britain's energy security policy has to be nuclear and coal. And the sooner the better, or the lights will go out."

My Overview

I wonder whether his selection of the quote from Darwin's Bulldog is significant in indicating how he sees himself? Huxley was wide of the mark, and his view of science and reason as neutral has been discredited. As a philosopher and a scientist myself I know that all science is based on faith, often in the form of beliefs so deeply rooted that we are unaware they are beliefs.

Helmer's Arguments

Let us examine Helmer's arguments by which he seeks to underming the F and P statements, to see if there is any useful critique of the climate change position. I give two types of comment, first about the argument, then about what Helmer is trying to do and how he is doing it and his attitude; because our new view is concerned with responsibility and attitude, it is the latter comment that is the more important here. Both are in [square brackets], indented.

On Paradigm Shifts and Dissenters

Paradigms are ways of seeing the field one is studying. The notion of paradigm shift was brought to our attention main by Kuhn, who gave examples from the history of science. Most sciences gave as examples proceed for a period under the guidance of one paradigm, and knowledge is built up by that scientific community incrementally, but after a while it becomes apparent that that paradigm (way of seeing things) is 'not quite right', and eventually the not-rightness is so large that someone (a radical thinker) proposes a new paradigm. That then becomes the established paradigm in its turn.

But the idea that science moves forward only by the action of anti-establishment people is not the whole picture. Real radical thought is not really useful until shorn of its religious refusals-to-believe. Real radical thought embraces the previous thought (that went on under the previous paradigm) as a poorer understanding rather than a false understanding, and is merciful in its attitude towards it.

In another context, CS Lewis gave the example of a child drawing a circle, all wobbly, and then seeing a (near-)perfect circle and acknowledging that this is what he was aiming for all along. The perfect (in the sense in Hebrews of being complete) is not hostile to the imperfect/incomplete, but embraces it and values it, and even is thankful to it as helping humanity move towards the more complete. The new paradigm does not usually emerge without the period of 'establishment' growth of knowledge.

True radical science works by finding a different way of seeing things, not by just negating and casting doubt on elements of established beliefs. In negating and casting doubt on elements of established beliefs about climate change, the climate sceptics are not offering a new way of seeing things. However, sceptics do have a role, a pre-paradigmatic one, in that they can expose some of the weaknesses of the established view and so they *might* thereby open the way for the true radicals to gain acceptance for their new ways of seeing things.

I say 'might' because sceptics are only effective in this role if they are not hostile to the established view, but rather treat it with respect and love, a love that is sad that it has found a weakness. It reminds me of God's attitude, "who desires not the death of the sinner but that he turn from his wickedness and live." Unfortunately, all the climate sceptics I have read so far are hostile, and desire the 'death' of climate change responsibility rather than its healing. They hate it rather than love it. That is one major reason why I have yet to find a climate sceptic who is useful.

This page is offered to God as on-going work in developing a 'New View' in theology that is appropriate to the days that are coming upon us. Comments, queries welcome.

Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 2009, but you may use this material subject to certain conditions.

Written on the Amiga with Protext. Number of visitors to these pages: Counter.

Created: 1 November 2009. Last updated: 5 November 2009 invitation, comedians. 14 November 2009 simplified; comedians moved to new page.